JANESVILLE—There is something spectacular about being out and about on a cold, dark night.
Dennis James, coordinator for the Ice Age Trail Alliance Rock County Chapter, paraphrased a famous North Pole hiker whose name he could not recall to describe the feeling of being outside on a chilly winter’s evening.
The woods at night are peaceful and comfortable, even in winter, if people are dressed appropriately, James said.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance Rock County Chapter hosts a candlelight hike each year at Storrs Lake in Milton. This year, on the same weekend in January, it will host its first-ever candlelight hike with the Janesville School District at the Janesville Schools Outdoor Lab on County A in Janesville.
Candlelight hikes take place at night during winter. The trail alliance sets out candles to illuminate paths, and there is typically a meetup area with campfires and snacks, James said.
The candles are particularly special. Each year, members of the alliance spend a day making candles with members from other outdoor organizations, James said.
The events raise awareness of the alliance, the Ice Age Trail and of the parks in Rock County.
The alliance hosts candlelight hikes in conjunction with the Janesville Parks Division and the Friends of Rock County Parks to encourage people to go out and visit the parks and trails.
The hikes are not rigorous. They are meant to be open to the public and accessible to any and all who want to participate, James said.
The alliance has seen 100 or more people show up for past hikes, James said. About 65 people showed up to last year’s annual event, when temperatures dropped to zero. That number was impressive considering the frigid conditions, James said.
Families should consider attending a hike because it provides a chance to spend time together and to see trails in a new light, so to speak, said Paul Stengel, coordinator of the Janesville Schools Outdoor Lab.
Stengel said the candlelight hikes also are good opportunities for the school district to promote the outdoor lab and to provide a social activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle.
The outdoor lab is a 160-acre arboretum where the district hosts classes and events, Stengel said. Students take class trips to the lab throughout their time in the district, and high school students usually volunteer as guides, he said.
The school district will open the outdoor lab’s log cabin for the hike, providing a place for visitors to drink hot chocolate and learn more about what the lab has to offer—including a collection of taxidermy displays, Stengel said.
The Ice Age Trail, including the portion that runs through the outdoor lab, is open year-round for hikers, Stengel said.
Candlelight hikers should dress for the weather. James recommends dressing in layers, including a coat, sweatshirt, gloves, hat, long underwear, pants, thick socks and boots or heavy shoes.
This year’s hikes will include an owl hike led by a local owl expert. The expert will provide information on owl traits and hoots in an effort to attract them so hikers might see them.
A time and date has not yet been set for the owl hike.